Friday, January 19, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Deadly consequences of 'stand your ground'

The longer the "stand your ground" law survives, the more often Floridians will be killed in avoidable confrontations by emboldened shooters under no obligation to back down. The recent cases of a man who shot and killed an unarmed teen in Jacksonville and a movie patron who shot and killed an unarmed man at a Pasco County movie theater provide fresh evidence that the Legislature should repeal the law. "Stand your ground" encourages gun owners to shoot first and claim later they felt threatened, and the law has wide-reaching effects on justice even when it is not directly invoked before trial.

The Legislature passed "stand your ground" in 2005, removing the duty to walk away from a potentially deadly conflict if retreat is an option. Before the law changed, defendants had to exhaust "every reasonable means" to avoid danger before using deadly force. Now, with no duty to retreat, defendants can legally meet force or even the fear of force with force if they reasonably fear for their lives.

The implications of "stand your ground" go beyond the law itself, as it can still protect killers who don't use it as a pretrial defense. The Florida Supreme Court modified jury instructions in 2006 to reflect the law.

"If the defendant was not engaged in an unlawful activity and was attacked in any place where he had a right to be, he had no duty to retreat and had the right to … meet force with force, including deadly force if he reasonably believed that it was necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony," according to standard jury instructions from the Supreme Court.

At least one juror in the Jacksonville case, where "stand your ground" was not invoked, has said that the jury instructions played a role in the panel's inability to convict Michael Dunn on the charge of murdering 17-year-old Jordan Davis. It's worth noting that "stand your ground" also was not argued in the 2013 trial of George Zimmerman, who was acquitted in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. But the jury instructions reflected the change.

In 2012, the Tampa Bay Times examined 200 "stand your ground" cases and found that the law has been used to defend drug dealers, killers and other violent offenders, many of whom initiated the fight and still went free. This is hardly what lawmakers envisioned when they crafted the law, yet they continue to defend it to appease the National Rifle Association.

The most prudent course is to repeal the law. Short of that, lawmakers should amend it to include a duty to retreat if you can safely escape, but even that has proven too much for legislators in the past. Florida has issued more than 1 million concealed weapons permits. Yet lawmakers are more focused on making it easier to obtain a permit than rewriting the "stand your ground" law that makes shooting and killing someone the first option rather than the last. Floridians deserve better.

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Editorial: More talk, answers needed on future of USF St. Petersburg

Editorial: More talk, answers needed on future of USF St. Petersburg

The Florida Legislature’s abrupt move to strip the University of South Florida St. Petersburg of its hard-earned separate accreditation and transform it back into a satellite of the major research university lacks detail and an appreciation for histo...
Published: 01/18/18

Another voice: Self-dealing by nursing home owners threatens patient care

The outsourcing of logistical support services, which became commonplace in the U.S. military in the 1990s and later was adopted by state prison systems, has now come to dominate the nursing home industry. And while nursing homes, unlike the military...
Published: 01/17/18
Editorial: Making illegal sewage discharges legal is wrong answer

Editorial: Making illegal sewage discharges legal is wrong answer

Three years into a crisis with its sewer system, St. Petersburg has a dandy new idea for dealing with the environmental fallout of dumping dirty water into the aquifer. Instead of committing to banning the outlawed practice, a consultant suggested th...
Published: 01/16/18
Updated: 01/17/18
Editorial: Tighten substitute teacher rules in Hillsborough

Editorial: Tighten substitute teacher rules in Hillsborough

A substitute teacher at a Plant City elementary school berated a class of fourth graders — and then the school principal. Another compared a student to a stripper. Others were caught napping, hitting children, making sexual remarks, giving students b...
Published: 01/16/18
Updated: 01/17/18
Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

For the longest time, injured workers in Florida were basically at the mercy of the whims of employers to treat them fairly. A 2003 law aimed at reducing the cost of workers’ compensation coverage for businesses had the desired impact, but it also di...
Published: 01/16/18

Another voice: Why just Florida?

Cynicism has always been a part of politics, but rarely are politicians so brazen and self-serving as President Donald Trump and his interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, have been over the past week. First they announced a new offshore drilling plan that ...
Published: 01/16/18
Editorial: King’s legacy still relevant in digital age

Editorial: King’s legacy still relevant in digital age

Today’s holiday honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. couldn’t be more timely. At a moment when the nation’s civic dialogue is choking on personal and political division, it is hard to remember an earlier time when role models were role m...
Published: 01/15/18

Another voice: 38 minutes of fear in Hawaii

In 1938, Orson Welles panicked the nation with a false alarm about a Martian invasion in the radio broadcast The War of the Worlds. That was farfetched, of course. But what happened on Saturday, sadly, was not so hard to imagine — or believe.Authorit...
Published: 01/14/18
Updated: 01/16/18
Editorial: Florida’s chance to make it easier to restore civil rights

Editorial: Florida’s chance to make it easier to restore civil rights

As it has for decades, Florida stubbornly clings to an inhumane, inefficient and indefensible system of justice that permanently sentences more than 1.5 million residents to second-class citizenship. This state automatically revokes the right to vote...
Published: 01/13/18
Editorial: Speak out against Trump’s vulgar remarks

Editorial: Speak out against Trump’s vulgar remarks

President Donald Trump’s vulgar outbursts during a White House meeting on immigration are racist and indefensible no matter how he parses them. They are not presidential, they undermine U.S. foreign relations and they do not reflect America’s values....
Published: 01/12/18